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Miami Police announces Formstack in the wake of bike theft

In hopes of curbing bike thefts, the Miami University Police Department is introducing a system to track bikes on campus.
In hopes of curbing bike thefts, the Miami University Police Department is introducing a system to track bikes on campus.

The Miami University Police Department (MUPD) is testing out a new way to take on last semester’s uptick in bike theft.

According to its February 2023 newsletter, MUPD created a Formstack where students can report the serial numbers and descriptions for their bikes, e-bikes and scooters. MUPD then enters that information into a national database, allowing other law enforcement to investigate stolen property that shows up for matches.

While still inaccessible to the public, MUPD will put the Formstack both on its website and as a QR code sticker on bike racks for the start of the fall 2023 semester. In the meantime, MUPD recommends students lock their bikes with U-bolt locks, which are harder to cut.

“Our hope is that as students are bringing their bikes back to campus in the fall, their parents see [the QR code] and they put [information] on the bike rack form,” MUPD Administrative Sgt. Sharon Burkett said. 

Every mid-May after students leave campus, MUPD usually collects more than 200 bikes in its annual roundup. Most of those have no known owner. Burkett said most students never register their bikes or record their serial number. 

First-year exploratory studies major Gabe Finta had his e-scooter stolen last semester and plans to fill out the Formstack for the new one he bought. He stays cautious with it now, parking it in more secretive spots than right outside his residence hall or in parking garages.

Finta advised other students to act responsibly and avoid reliving his situation.

“Get a lock, make sure it’s always locked and have the key,” Finta said. “Don’t take locations for granted that you think it might not get stolen.”

The Oxford Police Department (OPD) has no system like the Formstack because that requires someone to maintain the data, according to OPD Lt. Lara Fening. Plus, this issue typically only comes in waves for the city, when recurring criminals steal for their own convenience. However, some paint the bikes, making them impossible to identify.

“Maybe we see someone that we know on a new bike and know they don't have a new bike,” Fening said. “But we don't know who it belongs to because there is no report made.” 

As the higher number of e-bikes on campus last semester resulted in increased theft, Fening said any concerned Oxford residents can call in with the details of their bike for police to gather and cross-reference if necessary.

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